O's hope for better effort out of Saunders vs. Blue Jays
Lefty Joe Saunders makes his second start with his playoff- chasing new team Monday when the Baltimore Orioles visit Rogers Centre to open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Orioles have been one of baseball's most surprising teams in 2012, getting to 15 games over .500 and winning two of three over the weekend to climb within two games of the New York Yankees in the American League's East Division.
Baltimore is holding the second of the AL's two wild card berths with a 1 1/2- game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays in an effort to end a playoff drought that stretches back to 1997.
The Orioles, who lost 93 games last season, have also not finished at .500 since 1997.
Saunders, a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2002, had spent the last two-plus seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks before he was dealt for reliever Matt Lindstrom on Aug. 26.
A 12-game winner with Arizona last season, Saunders was 6-10 in 21 starts before the trade.
He was hit hard in his Orioles debut on Aug. 29, allowing 10 hits and seven runs in 5 1/3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
In seven career meetings with the Blue Jays, he's 2-4 with a 3.83 earned run average in 47 innings.
For Toronto, lefty J.A. Happ makes his 10th appearance since another trade sent him from the National League to the American.
The 29-year-old Illinois native was 7-9 with the Houston Astros across 18 starts before heading to Toronto as part of a 10-player deal on July 20.
He pitched in relief four times with the Blue Jays and has since made five straight starts, winning three of four decisions and allowing a single run in two of the outings.
He was an 8-5 winner over the Yankees in New York on Aug. 29 after surrendering four runs on four hits in five innings with five strikeouts.
Happ's lone career meeting with Baltimore came on June 20, 2009 while he was with Philadelphia. He allowed 10 hits and two runs in six innings while getting a no-decision in the Phillies' 6-5 loss.
On Sunday in Toronto, Ben Francisco hit his first home run as a Ray and drove in two as Tampa Bay took a 9-4 win over the Blue Jays to split a four-game series.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run home run and drove in three for the Blue Jays, who had won three straight prior to dropping the last two.
Ricky Romero (8-13) dropped his 12th straight decision as he got tagged for seven runs on eight hits in just one-plus inning of work.
In New York, Mark Reynolds homered twice for the second time in the series, including a go-ahead three-run shot in a four-run sixth inning, and the Orioles downed the New York Yankees, 8-3, in the rubber match of a three-game set.
Chris Tillman came in a winner in six of his past eight starts, but left the game after three innings due to right elbow stiffness. He allowed two runs on two hits and two walks.
Randy Wolf (1-0) replaced Tillman and got the win in his Orioles debut. He spun 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball, scattering three hits while walking one for Baltimore, which has won 19 of its last 27 games.
The Orioles won all three road series against the Yankees for the first time since 1976.
"Hopefully it's a sign we're becoming a little better because they've been the measuring stick for a long time," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles won seven of the first 11 games with the Blue Jays in 2012, including a sweep of a two-game set in Baltimore on Aug. 24-25. Toronto won the 2011 season series, 12 games to six.